Proud Roots

cropped-img-20180613-wa000611.jpgSometimes, when I dream,
I wake up as nothing short of
A Proud African Woman.

But, I’ve always been short.

And I can’t paint my skin,
anymore than I can stop
myself from being human.

So, that leaves me just short of
consenting to pride,
because my lightness reminds
of times that had signs that said
“Europeans Only”

Even though my father was not born here
and arrived with nothing
except the will to explore,
and a soul so full of hard work,
that he broke off a piece and used it to make me,
Me.

Night Terrors

My family, is huge,
There are so many husbands and even more wives.
My dad had to build us a whole neighborhood,
Because of his family’s size.
We kids, are too many to count, though we’ve tried.
But before we finish counting, more kids have been born,
more kids have died.

There are times, when a hand full of us would go out,
just to shop, or to school, and bullets ended their lives,
but for the most part, our terrors, are more likely a job from inside.
You see, our family is too big to get on. And our names too easily divide.
Those named on dads side, start with W, and those named after mums, have their own letters.
From my mum, the boys are O and the girls are A, So they call my mum Mama O
Then there’s Mama L, Mama S, Mama K, and Mama M.
A long time ago, before our Mamas were born, all the families fought in a war.
They fought together, but when it was over, Dads family got the most.
And so, out of inequalities, a feud was started,
between those who did, and didn’t share in the spoils.

Our night terrors are nasty. Once, Mama, my mama had twins, named from dads side,
And they went over to our cousins to spend the night. They were only five.
In the night, our cousins did unspeakable things to little Winnie, on the floor by her bed side.
Then burnt both Winnie and William, in their room. They said the room had no use after they had spent the night.
Nine years ago, was the worst, all our houses became smoke
and blood, until, we were all told not to speak of it.
But in the night, these memories haunt, lips sealed, we see each other different.

The other day, we found toy tires, burning in the hall way.
Yes, we managed to walk around them. But the smoke, did well to remind
that burning and bleeding, are things that run in our family.
We are much more in danger, from within.
Than outside.

But, That’s Not What They Were Fighting For

The day Maitú snuck out,
to slit her ears,
to wear hangi,
I am sure she didn’t envisage
the day, when girls are stripped
      on streets.
When she, went back and
undid the deed,
I am sure, she did not see,
live video feeds,
Of legs apart on back seats,
with a voice
calling for a bottle.
There are those of us, who never had the chance
to meet grandmas,
who with their husbands names,
hidden under their teeth,
passed on violently, and loyally
at the hands of oppressors.

This what we have here,
This #Mollis era,
     This is not
What they were fighting
     for.

Growing Up. Part 1. Conversation and Patience

I am forced to admit, that I am quite a sporadic writer. I woke up the other morning, at three thirty, jumped out of bed and scrambled for a pen and lots of paper. I had to write about growing up, something I am suddenly very happy I’ve managed to do.

Perhaps, one day, when being a poet, affords me a manager, he or she will make sure I have scheduled posts, and pre-written pieces, to keep my (by then) hungry readers interested. Until that time, I am very grateful to you, who is unconditionally on the receiving end of my spontaneity.

Here are the ways in which, I’m very happy I have grown up.

1. Conversation

2. Patience

3. Hair

4. Love

5. Poetry

Initially, on waking up at that strange time, I thought I had been inspired to write one post. On sitting down to write it, I realized, that the topic is far too large for just one article. What follows is the first parts of why I love growing up.

Conversation.

I’ve become, a much better listener. I am no longer that annoying girl in the class who always had her hand up. I’ve learnt, that it is possible to express oneself much better by listening to the points of views of the people around you. In that way, you can choose your words more wisely, and be understood much clearer.

Once upon a time, I was told that Rwandan women feed their babies on breast milk until they reach two years old. In my defense, the source of that information, was the Rwandan mum of my half Rwandan childhood neighbor and friend. When I was eleven and in year seven, I was new to Nairobi and the new kid in the class, I put up my hand to say this. I made a habit of collecting and delivering ‘Did You Know?’ type facts, consequently volunteering information I hadn’t been asked for was something I did frequently.

What I didn’t know, is that I had a Rwandan class mate. She took great offense at the sweeping statement I had delivered about her origins. She received my comment as an attack on her nationality. At the time, I didn’t understand her reaction. I thought my source to have been credible, and thus would have expected her to have simply corrected me if I was wrong. We were never friends while in the same school, and throughout the time that we were in class together, I didn’t think she was a very nice person.

We had mutual friends, and so, after finishing at that primary, we met by chance on other occasions. I grew to like her just before she left the country for good. I have often been around people who make blanket statements since, and so, I’ve come to understand why I rubbed her off the wrong way.

A blanket statement, is a bit like one of those police trucks that goes around picking up people and stacking them together, for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I have, myself been loaded into these truck like statements, for being – a woman, a member of the youth, a ‘pointy’, a kyuk, a jungu – that list is actually endless. Whether a generalization is made as a compliment or an insult, it is never nice to be picked up and plopped into a labeled box, just because you fit into some stereotypical group of people, most of whom, you have probably never met.

On the day that I made that generalization, I made an ‘enemy’ (in the context that eleven year old girls would use the word) out of someone who, as it turns out was a respectful, caring and loyal friend.

I’m sure that would not have been the last time I made that kind of oversight, but with age comes the learning of lessons. I am now in a space where that is the kind of mistake I am unlikely to make. In that way, I have gotten to know many other people who I may otherwise have rubbed the wrong way on first meeting.

Learning to listen more in conversation, is something, I absolutely love about growing up.

Patience

Patience is one of those lessons, that I keep having to learn again, just when I thought I had got it. It’s like the point, in a game of soduku, where you are at the edge of having all of the rest of the answers, but can’t quite figure out the next move. That’s because, contrary to popular belief, patience is not about sitting and waiting.

Patience is; resiliently putting one foot in front of the other, in a sustainable, peaceful way.

Impatience and longevity are opposing forces. Longevity, is the reason why a leopard will eat, where a cheetah will starve. Impatience provides shelter for that frustrating feeling of ‘So close, and yet so far’. It acts like a fungus, whose spores are hopelessness and ingratitude.

Patience on the other hand, allows you to till the land, carefully. With the knowledge that, although this life does not guarantee success, your best efforts in the field, make for your best chances of yield.

Often, the best poems I’ve written have been penned in less than ten minutes. The process that precedes the delivery is what takes ages. Besides, wide and quantitative reading and hours of practice writing, I have to have internalized and analyzed the subject matter, with enough depth to be able to know what it is that I’m trying to say. The longest time, that that has taken is eight years.

Patience isn’t inanimate though. It needs to be fed, nurtured, loved, encouraged. It thrives in the company of peace, hope, grace and love. Together, these forces, create peace of mind

Without patience and resilience, most of my truest art pieces, would never have been written. Most of my triumphs would never have been made. So, patience is one of the reasons, why I love being my age.

The mirrors across the road.

I have the opportunity, once a month to ask people what they think about Kenya.
It’s an anticipated pleasure.
I was surprised by how much we agree on.
Last night, there was a coincident of a sentiment that has been bouncing around my mind with it’s resonance.

Our politicians represent us, reasonably accurately.

As a working nation, we tend to get on with our lives with resilience. Caring with little commitment for our own sentiments. We seem to think about the problems that affect us in a detached theoretical way. As though everything around us is SEP (Someone Else’s problem) and someone else’s fault.

We wait until it’s literally too late to feel motivated to a point of action. Consequently, the only action we end up taking is raving discussions behind theoretical closed doors within which we feel safe to be blatantly honest (in our siting rooms, bars or online). A process which reinforces stereotypes, serves to propagate propaganda and heightens negative emotions rather than pursuing reconciliation or debating solutions.

Rather than meet the problem, we beat around the bush chanting messages that are intended to ward off ghosts of imaginary scapegoats.

Really quite sad.

All in all,  We are selfish, in nepotistic, cronieistic kind of way. I believe that stems from the shadows of our helplessness, which entirely understandable. I do it too.

Trouble is that, that won’t do. Not if you hope like I do, for better roads, constant water,effective drought management, etc.

For any constructive goals to be achieved, we have to be the change we want to see.